Biographical Information:

Dates: 1920-2011Dates in Ridgefield: 1951-1966
fiction, plays, television, motion picturesscreenwriter, playwright, Writers Guild Award recipient, Peabody Award recipient, Emmy Award recipient

“My mind is a repository of memories, of cameos and anecdotes,” Max Wilkes told The New York Times in 1977. “Nightly, I entertain a cast of thousands. Usually, at about 4:00 a.m., they arrive.” Then 77, Mr. Wilk was still doing what he had done for years–writing books about the entertainment world, and doing it with a sense of humor. The son of a literary agent and Warner Brothers story editor, Mr. Wilk grew up in Minnesota, studied drama at Yale University, and served in the Army in World War II. During the war, he was a cast member of Irving Berlin’s This Is the Army, a wartime musical that was originally a 1942 Broadway play and in 1943 a motion picture designed to raise U.S. morale during the war. He was then in the Air Forces’s Hollywood movie unit, where he wrote training films for such stars as Alan Ladd, Clark Gable, and Jimmy Stewart. In 1948 he became a pioneer in television, writing skits for comedians Ed Wynn, Victor Borge, Art Carney, and Jonathan Winters, among others. He and his family moved to Ridgefield in 1951 and here he wrote his first book, Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River, turned into a movie starring Jerry Lewis. “While the locale of this book is Connecticut, it has nothing of importance to say about Suburbia, Exurbia, or the stifling wave of Middle Class Conformity which, it is augured, will soon engulf the whole of Fairfield County,” the book jacket says. Nonetheless, readers could see many lighthearted slices of 1950's Ridgefield life in his portrait of Green Haven and an innkeeper there. In all, Wilks wrote 19 books on such subjects as The Golden Age of Television: Notes from Survivors, and They’re Playing Our Song: Conversations with America’s Classic Songwriters. His novel, Help! Help! Help!, also contains anecdotes based on living in Ridgefield. He wrote three Broadway plays, among them, Small Wonder. He also wrote many TV shows; his CBS Special, The Fabulous Fifties, won an Emmy, a Peabody, and a Writers Guild Award. Mr. Wilk and his artist wife, Barbara (now deceased), moved to Westport in 1966. He died there at age 90 in 2011.
Titles (partial):Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the Water, 1960Help! Help! Help!: Or Atrocity Stories From All Over, 1963They’re Playing Our Song: Conversations with America’s Classic Songwriters, 1973The Golden Age of Television: Notes From Survivors, 1976The Sound of Music: The Making of America’s Favorite Movie, 2007
–-Sources: Notable Ridgefielders-Jack Sanders; www.westportnow.com; Wikipedia; Amazon.com
Check the library catalog for titles by this author.